Friday, January 28

Enjoying shopping is a privilege

“Being a gypsy is suspicious. I check it every time I go to the supermarket, the hospital or any restaurant and I feel the hatred in the looks and the words”, Silvia Agüero Fernández wrote in Pikara Magazine. Gypsy Feminists for Diversity also included last March 8 among its Claims of Romani Feminism “the right to go shopping without the store lady or security being glued to you.”

The Association of Gypsy Women of Euskadi (Amuge) has managed to videotape several real scenes of criminalization, in which male and female workers follow the gypsy women and call security. These images are part of the testing (a research technique) carried out in 15 supermarkets and 5 shopping centers in Bizkaia. At each visit, two groups of volunteers of the same age entered at the same time (one made up of Roma women and the other of white women), followed discreetly by independent observers and by audiovisual technique. In 16 of the 20 establishments, Roma women received some kind of criminalizing treatment: above all, persecution through the corridors, incriminating comments and requests for reinforcements.

With girls and from girls

In a well-known clothing store, the person in charge of supervising the testers passed the backpack of Tamara Clavería, Amuge’s manager, through the detector, but did not do the same with the backpack of Maite Asensio, editor of the newspaper BERRIA, who participated as an observer. I accompanied them to the shopping center where the largest deployment of security personnel took place: one agent broke into the clothing store and two waited at the entrance, identifying the young gypsy women by their clothing, as can be seen in the video. One of them dreamed that night that they would put her in jail.

The 14 Roma women who participated in the experiment suffered discrimination in some of the visits. The youngest expressed disappointment; the older ones emphasized that this is the daily bread for them. Both of them felt harassed and expressed it with boredom and anger. It is something that they have lived since they were girls; In fact, the final straw that led Amuge to organize this test was the persecution by several Prosegur guards who suffered a group of girls between 12 and 14 years old and three educators of the organization when leaving the cinema in a shopping center in Zubiarte. “The harassment they experienced made them feel afraid and ‘understand’ that a shopping center in their city is not a safe place for them,” he wrote Mª Ángeles Fernández then in Pikara Magazine.

The white volunteers, for their part, were able to do the shopping calmly in all the establishments. They did not give them wake-up calls like the Roma volunteers when they did the same things, like trying to smell a perfume. Their main observations were that the staff ignored them because they were focused on monitoring the Roma volunteers and that it was hard for them to attend such differential treatment. “Privileged, evidencing unequal treatment”, one of them answered in the form for collecting observations, to the question “How did you feel?”

The visits were tough but, nevertheless, the testimonies to Amuge members collected in the previous days (and which will be included in the report that will be published soon) point out even more alarming scenes, such as that of a woman who went shopping with her small and young children. the security guard summoned him to enter the room to check the security cameras, because he had seen “something.” “He looked and said ‘sorry, sorry, it was a mistake’. ‘It was a mistake, sweetie, well go’ and I was ashamed, because the world looked at me and put me in the room without having done anything, with the other two children, scared to death, “he says. In fact, from Amuge they point out that criminalization increases when women are accompanied by their children.

Social racism converges with institutionalized anti-Gypsyism. In other words, prejudices and stereotypes condition the staff’s gaze, but they also receive instructions that directly stigmatize Roma people. An example that transcended the media was the poster that was hung in a McDonald’s in the Basque Country explicitly ordering “Gypsies / Romanians are not served”, arguing that “there are already several scam attempts.” “But how many cases of white people do they have that steal or cheat? They don’t know, because they don’t control them like we do and because if white people steal, that suspicion is not extended to all,” Clavería emphasizes.

Use our privilege

The American feminist and anti-racist activist Peggy McIntosh published a landmark article in 1989, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack“(” White privilege: unpacking the invisible backpack “), in which she listed some of the privileges she enjoyed for being white. One of the first on the list was:” I can go shopping alone most of the time, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be followed or harassed. “When Tamara Clavería invited me to participate in this Amuge project, she also pointed out that going quiet and even enjoying shopping is a privilege, as long as that right is systematically denied to women. gypsy women.

Clavería calls on the white allies to empathize with the public humiliation of being incriminated in public in front of the entire store without having done anything. “We need feminists to understand that the first violence we suffer is not because we are women but because we are gypsies. We need those of you who are fathers, mothers or educators, to also defend our creatures. We need allies who do not look the other way, that they do not think “something has been done.” We need you to question your privileges to fight against this capitalist, patriarchal and racist system and overthrow it, “he wrote in an opinion article published in Aphrophemines and Gara.

One of their demands is that article 510 of the penal code (relative to hate crimes) be amended to include daily acts of racism, since the current wording only refers to “encouraging, promoting, or inciting directly or indirectly to hatred, hostility, discrimination or violence against a group, a part of it, or against a person determined by reason of their membership “. In addition, they demand that store and security personnel be trained in anti-racism so that they stop being guided by prejudice, and that acts of reparation be carried out in the face of complaints such as that of Zubiarte.

As Gessamí Forner, a journalist from The jump and another of the observers of testing, this research has to help us white allies to open our eyes wide when we go shopping. Because if this happens to gypsy women on a daily basis, it means that it also happens around us on a daily basis.